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Wednesday, 29 October 2014


The thriving market for stolen smart phones in Tanzania and elsewhere around the globe is well on track to be a thing of the past, The Citizen has learnt. In just nine months or so, stealing a phone will be a deadly business in the face of advances in technology.

Criminals who have earned a living stealing and selling stolen phones will be put out of business by the Wireless Association in America—known by its acronym CTIA—which has announced the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment. It demands that all smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have “kill switch” technology.
According to data obtained by The Citizen from Lookout Incorporation, a US-based mobile security, Kill Switch is a system that remotely disables smartphones and wipes out data.
The kill switch is definitely a step in the right direction to deter smartphone thefts across United States of America—and hopefully the world—aimed at protecting smartphone users.
If you happen to buy a brand new smartphone manufactured in the US from July next year, you will not have to worry about rampant mobile phones thieves in Dar es salaam or elsewhere around the country.
Under the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, each mobile phone manufacturer and operating system have signed an agreement that new models of smartphones manufactured after July 2015 for retail sale in the United States will offer, at no cost to consumers, a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable on wireless smartphones that provides the connected capability remote wipe the authorised user’s data–that is, erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails and so on) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen. It will render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorised user by locking it so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorised user—for example, “phone home”.
The system will prevent re-activation without authorised user’s permission (including unauthorised factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible such as locking the smartphone.
It can reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorised user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible, such as information restored from the cloud.
 Though The Citizen has not independently confirmed whether the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) would force all importers of modern smart phones to ensure their products have a kill switch, the technology would be a boon to users, given the rampant theft of phones.
 How big is the mobile phone theft? Chances are someone you know has had a smartphone stolen. Whether you left it on a coffee shop table and came back to find it missing or it was lifted from your pocket on your way home from work, phone theft happens to the best of us at a rising rate, according to the latest survey findings.  
Though there is no official data about how many phones are stolen yearly in Tanzania, the thriving black market for stolen phones is credible evidence of how big the problem has become.
 According to data from Lookout Incorporation, a US-based mobile security that secures the new generation of mobile computing for individuals and organisations everywhere, in 2013, 3.1 million American consumers were victims of smartphone theft—nearly double the number reported in 2012.
Lookout’s Phone Theft report for 2014 says a survey of smartphone theft victims conducted found that one in 10 US smartphone owners are victims of phone theft and 68 percent of victims were unable to recover their device.
From what the survey says, the reality is that whether your smartphone is white, black, or gold, it is now almost 30 times more valuable per ounce than a block of solid silver — and almost as easy to convert discreetly into cash.
Though the survey was conducted in US, the findings hugely reflect what has been taking place in Tanzania, where smart phone theft has got to a state where thieves hire motorbikes to facilitate their crimes.
There are original smart phones in the local market in Dar es Salaam, Samsung and Apple brands, which are sold at a cheaper price than what these phones cost in US, UK or Dubai.
The data from a US-based firm say simply being a little too forgetful plays a huge role in the growing phone theft trend. Most phone theft victims—at 44 per cent—accidentally left their phone behind in a public setting where it was later snatched up by a thief.
A report from a  US-based firm says: “According to our data, the typical victim was most likely at a restaurant in the afternoon, and it took the victim an hour to realise the phone had been nabbed…Once they notice, they’re willing to pay big money to get it back. It, surprisingly, is not actually the phone, but the data on it.”
Smartphones carry a great deal of highly personal information—from banking information to corporate email.  Fifty percent of phone theft victims, according to the report, would be somewhat likely to extremely likely to pay $500 to retrieve their stolen phone’s data, including all photos, videos, music, apps, and private information, while one-third of victims would be somewhat likely to extremely likely to pay $1,000!
Even more important, 68 per cent of phone theft victims are willing to put themselves in some amount of danger to retrieve a stolen device and the precious information on it. 
“Until we can build technological solutions to make phone theft less appealing and educate the public on how to stay safe, the issue is bound to keep growing,” warns the report.
 The survey was conducted online by IDG Research on behalf of Lookout between March 4 and March 20, 2014. The survey was fielded to respondents in the US, UK, France, and Germany who reported owning a smartphone.
The Golden Hour of Phone Theft
According to the Lookout Incorporation report, regardless of when your phone was stolen, time is of the essence to recover it. Only 25 percent of phone theft victims noticed their phone was stolen immediately, and roughly one in two victims noticed in the first hour.
The Citizen

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